Thirty-four days. That’s how long it takes to turn a Tex-Mex restaurant into a craft beer bar.
Residents of Metro Detroit may know the address 175 W. Troy Ave. in Ferndale as a slew of different venues over the years.
In a former life, the address housed the Irish pub Rosie O’Grady’s before moving. After that, it became the restaurant Cantina Diablo’s. But since then, just over a year in, One Eyed Betty’s has become a craft beer destination in Southeast Michigan.
The bar’s success is a testament to Owner and Operator Beth Hussey’s original vision.
“I knew this area was very much underserved when it came to craft beer,” she said. “I knew there was an opportunity here and it would go well.”
Once Diablo’s started going downhill a few years back, Hussey proposed the idea of Betty’s to her business partner. A longtime Ferndale resident, Hussey had moved to Grand Rapids for about a year prior to her proposed idea.
During that time, she became fond of the eclectic nature of the city, the craft beer scene and the bars. Her vision and idea of One Eyed Betty’s became somewhat homage to the city she had grown to love.
“I really wanted it to feel like the places that felt so good in Grand Rapids,” she said. “The way people are, it’s such a craft beer-centric city that I wanted to bring it back here.”
The construction was quick and took just a little over one month. Redesigning the former restaurant included knocking down walls, taking out booths, extending the bar and redoing the floor.
“It was totally gutted in 34 days. Quite a feat,” Hussey said. “And when we opened, it totally took off.”
So what else makes One Eyed Betty’s special aside from the story and edgy atmosphere? Beer, of course!
Betty’s currently houses 44 taps and countless bottles, all of which are updated regularly.
When it comes to the beer selection, Bar Manager and resident “Beer Guy” Michael Fredenburg wants customers to try them all.
“I want people to realize they can have a fantastic beer that isn’t supporting some mega-corporation,” he said. “If they come in for one beer specifically, that’s great. But then, I want to show them a new one.”
Even days where he has no managerial duty, you might find Fredenburg at the bar educating and encouraging customers.
“My favorite thing to do is find people and talk to them. And get them to absolutely love beer,” he said.
“I find that lady who hasn’t had a good beer in 20 years. Maybe she doesn’t like beer,” Fredenburg said. “I tell her she’s drinking the wrong beer. Then I show her. Everytime, they say, ‘Yeah, you got me.’ That gives me goose bumps.”
Half of the current tap list is solely dedicated to Michigan brews, something that just happened to work out perfectly with their original plan.
“When Beth concepted the place, the idea was half Michigan and half the rest of the world,” Fredenburg said.
“I got lucky the way it worked out. We had 44 taps and two chalkboards and it all divided up really easy,” Hussey said. “Michigan is the bulk of it. Not to mention, I think some of the greatest beers come from Michigan.”
But keeping customers posted on all of the beer updates isn’t the easiest thing. Hussey said the menu system and printing are a large investment, but worth it.
“A mark that’s missed in multi-tap concept bars is having an up-to-date beer list,” she said. “Our list is literally up-to-date to the minute. Very rarely will you come in and order a beer and find that it’s out.”
The menu is printed on chipboard paper and fits well with the overall theme of the bar.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s one of the most important things we do,” Hussey said.
One Eye Betty’s has also played host to several themed beer dinners, including many Michigan breweries like Dark Horse and the up and coming Odd Side Ales.
And despite all of the success over the past year, Hussey knows the beer is really only partially to thank.
“There are a couple of things that set us apart from other beer bars,” she said. “One is the staff. Some of the other places, where they miss the mark is the friendliness of the staff.”
One of Hussey’s goals for Betty’s was to take the snobiness away from beer.
“I really wanted to make sure that we never made anyone feel like that,” she said. “I knew we’d get the beer geeks, but I also knew that most of our customers would be new to craft beer.”
In the beginning, Hussey wanted an atmosphere that was “really comfortable, really casual and a little edgy.
“I think we’ve accomplished that,” she said.